Issue 17 Jul-Aug 2008
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Overseas News

Biking around the world

Helmet laws wreck careers

The former executive director of the Louisiana Safety Commission, who has pushed helmet laws throughout three administrations, said he was fired because he disagrees with current Governor Bobby Jindal's efforts to repeal their state's helmet mandate for adult riders.

Louisiana State Police Colonel James Champagne, who has held his post for 12 years throughout their on-again-off-again helmet law, was abruptly terminated March 25th, saying his dismissal followed a meeting with the governor's chief of staff because "I refused to compromise my views on the helmet issue."

Champagne testified in committee against Jindal's former boss and mentor ex-Governor Mike "Big Daddy" Foster's successful push to abolish the state's helmet law back in 1999, and then testified in favour of outgoing Governor Kathleen Blanco's successful drive to restore the helmet law in 2004. Foster once hinted publicly that Champagne's position on motorcycle helmets could cost him his job. Enter newly-elected Gov. Jindal, who favours repeal of the mandatory helmet law as a freedom of choice issue, and looks to fulfil one of his few specific campaign promises. At least two bills are pending in the Legislature that would repeal the helmet requirements for adults. Jindal replaced Champagne with the former head of Big Daddy's security detail during his terms as governor, 26-year veteran of the State Police Col. John LeBlanc, who has said that he will not take a position in the Legislature on the helmet issue.

In 2004 the state had 80 motorcycle fatalities, but despite the helmet requirement that figure rose to 95 in 2006, when Louisiana ranked No. 3 in the highest number of motorcycle deaths per 10,000 registered motorcycles with a death rate of 15.5 per 10,000 registered motorcycles; more than double the national rate.

Neighbouring Mississippi, which also has a helmet law, ranked No. 1 in the NHTSA data with 20 riders killed per 100,000 bikes. The report noted that nationwide while 50% of riders wore a helmet in 2006, only 42% of riders killed in crashes between 2002 and 2006 were not wearing helmets.

Flog 'em and flog 'em

Dangerous drivers in Iran face being flogged under a tough new law. Traffic chiefs hope the draconian measures will help reduce the bloodshed on Iran's highways, which are among the world's most dangerous. Road accidents have claimed at least 100,000 lives in the past five years.

"Drivers who commit dangerous acts will be referred to court for harming public order and the court can sentence violators to three months to a year in jail or 74 lashes," said Iran's traffic police chief, Mohammad Rouyanian.

The Iranian authorities have until now penalised bad drivers with a fine, seizing their driving license or confiscating their vehicles. The congested roads in Tehran, Iran's sprawling capital of 12 million people, are especially notorious. Few motorists bother with seat belts and few motorcyclists wear crash helmets. Despite surveillance cameras and police patrols, drivers often speed and overtake on the wrong side of the road. Recklessness, speeding and road unroadworthy vehicles account for most accidents.

Drink driving is less of a problem because alcohol is forbidden in the Islamic Republic, although it is available on the black market. The majority of cars on Iran's roads are home-produced ancient Peykans, which are identical twins of the British Hillman Hunter.

Daily Mail 22nd April 2008

Good cops in Bangkok

Sergeant Pichet Visetchote belongs to a motorcycle-mounted division of Bangkok's police force that specialises in delivering babies. The most recent of the 14 babies he has delivered was Rungarun -- whose name means "morning" in Thai. The girl was delivered in a pickup truck that was stuck in one of Bangkok's notorious traffic jams on the way to hospital.

When Bangkok traffic grinds to a halt, as it does for much of each day, the cops slip through on their motorcycles to fix cars, help the sick and deliver babies.

"It's the perfect job," said 37-year-old Pichet. "The police do not only enforce the law, we have a duty to help people."

The Royal Traffic Police Project, one of six traffic police divisions in the capital, was set up in 1993 with a broad mission to help people stranded in the traffic. Over time delivering babies has become its speciality. Officers in Bangkok have delivered 81 babies over the last ten years and cleared traffic to escort hundreds of women in labour, police records show.

Each officer's motorcycle is equipped with a first aid kit that includes a baby blanket, a tie for the umbilical cord and a hand pump to help newborns with their breathing. On any given day, five teams of two officers stake out the highways waiting for emergency calls.

Akekachai said he sees the police project as a chance for Thai police to make a positive connection with the people they serve, and added that he doesn't want police to be known only for fines and arrests.

McQueen family at loggerheads with Belstaff

A legal battle is threatening to destroy the lucrative arrangement between the family of the late Steve McQueen and the UK-based clothing firm.

The Hollywood idol and renowned motor racer bestowed iconic status on Belstaff by adopting its Trialmaster as his jacket of choice off screen as well as on.

Claims filed in a US lawsuit from the actor's heirs allege that Belstaff is illicitly using McQueen's name and image to market clothing and shoes. The jacket maker, which is now owned by the Italian Malenotti family, hit back at the allegations with a counterclaim of its own, announcing it was suing McQueen's heirs for "damages suffered due to loss of credibility and consequent confusion of its customers".

The actor, who is posthumously represented by the US rights firm Corbis, was the biggest-earning dead celebrity of 2007, according to the US magazine Forbes, which calculated that a surge in merchandise and movie sales earned the trust set up for his offspring more than $6m last year alone.


FEMA new President Hans Petter Strifeldt has been to a meeting with President of FIM's Commission for Mobility and Transport (CMT), to discuss current challenges facing the motorcycling community. The co-operation reflects the FIM's recognition that bike sport needs the support of the road riding community.

French speed wars

MAG members living in France have emailed The ROAD with details on a range of new speed checking devices.

The detectors listed below all come into force on the roads of France this summer! Be warned!

Needless to say the French Motards are not happy bunnies, in common with other road users. The makers have GUARANTEED that the Government will catch thousands of speeders resulting in millions of Euros in fines!

FEMA President opens the World's First Vision Zero Motorcycle Road

'A milestone for motorcycle safety,' said FEMA President Hans Petter Strifeldt as he officially opened the World's First Vision Zero Road for motorcycles along RV 32 in Telemark County in Norway May 7 2008.

The Vision Zero Motorcycle Road is the brainchild of two passionate engineers at the regional Road Authorities, Jan Petter Lyng and Bjørn R. Kirste, who have successfully designed the road exactly as the motorcyclists themselves recommend.

It is not much that is needed to make a motorcycle friendly road with regard to preventing injuries in case of accidents: Crash barriers fitted with a sub-rail, forgiving side terrain, well thought out placing of signposts, cutting down sight-hindering vegetation. The price tag for modifying these 15 kilometres of road is estimated at 630 000 euros. (£490,000)

Vision Zero is the strategy by means of which it is thought zero deaths and serious injuries might be achieved on the roads.

The concerns are due to the vision depending primarily on bans and regulations instead of adaptation of the road environment to suit all road users - motorcyclists included.

While motorcycles have been viewed as high-risk road vehicles they have been all but excluded from the Vision Zero document. The Vision Zero document has first and foremost given anti-motorcycle campaigners an opening to propose a ban on motorcycles as these, they claim, are not compatible with Vision Zero. With the opening of this motorcycle-friendly road, these claims have been effectively quashed, the FEMA President stated.

NB: Vision zero is the 'brainchild' of Swede Claes Tingvall. A tenet of Vision Zero is that that safety cannot be traded for mobility. While impractically extreme this philosophy has gained credibility in road safety spheres amidst a debate which has sought to marginalise motorcycling.

Dutch cyclists want airbags

The Dutch Cycling Federation said a study showed that 60 lives could be saved a year if air bags were installed on the hoods of cars, where cyclists are typically hit in accidents. External air bags could also cut 1,500 serious injuries a year.

The organisation said 216 cyclists died in the Netherlands in 2006, including 106 in crashes with cars.

Cycling has always been popular in this flat country that is well-served by cycle lanes and home to 18 million bikes for its 16 million people.

Hells Angel founder sues movie maker

The founder of the Hells Angels motorcycle club has sued HBO, claiming the pay cable network cut him out of an upcoming pilot he helped develop. The Hollywood Reporter reported. Sonny Barger filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles against HBO, production company White Mountain Co. and the project's writer/executive producer, Michael Tolkin.

American gas price soars but it's all relative

Americans are having to live with escalating fuel prices as the price of crude oil climbs. For the first time average prices hit $3.50 a gallon (£1.75) at filling stations across the country with no sign of relief.

Aussies get secure parking

A new system to make parking more secure for motorcycles is being rolled out across Canberra. Anchor points will be located in ACT Government car parks with the Furzer Street car park in Woden the first to receive the structures.

Peter Major from the Motorcycle Riders Association says the Government decided to go ahead with plans after a spate of thefts. "There were actually six thefts in a short period of time in a Woden precinct and the Government responded and they saw it as part of the national initiative to actually say well it's a good idea lets roll it out," he said. Mr Major says the anchor points will encourage more people to use their bikes for transport.

"We're absolutely behind it, motorcycling is a strategy that's part of the overall transport plan. We're green, we're efficient and we actually cut down on road congestion and road maintenance," he said.

New Zealand Transport Minister wants more controls on bikes

NZ Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven is being told he has taken a wrong turn with his new proposed rules on motorbikes. Duynhoven wants to restrict the use of powerful motorbikes by learner drivers. He is also planning to increase the minimum time period riders over 25 spend on a restricted license, and plans to make it compulsory for bikes to have their headlights on during the day.

But Auckland Motorcycle Club president Chris Costello says motorcyclists are not at fault in nearly three-quarters of the accidents they are involved in.


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